1939-1969, TRT: 90m, Color/B&W, USA.
MONDAY, MAY 13 – 8:00 PM
TUESDAY, MAY 28 – 8:00 PM

As one of the most characteristically diverse places on the planet, New York City’s 20th-century history has produced sights and sounds of an astonishing breadth. May’s EPHEMERA program WHAT WAS NEW YORK? offers a curated selection of moments from the history of NYC as it has been captured on celluloid. From specific transit exposés to neighborhood profiles, this edit utilizes a variety of framing contexts interchangeably to present an appropriately-scattered portrait of a location in constant flux; its assembly chronological yet timeless.

Preceding the feature program is LIVE AND LET LIVE (1947, 10m, Color, USA), an innovative safety awareness film produced by the Aetna Casualty & Surety Company that utilizes brightly-colored model cars to demonstrate traffic scenarios via tabletop stop-motion animation.

Sources for WHAT WAS NEW YORK? include: Around The World In New York (1940), Arteries Of New York City (1941), Coney Island (1940), For The Living (1949), R.F.D. Greenwich Village (1969), Story Of A City (1947), Story Of Newspaper History In The Making (1945), The City (1939), Third Avenue El (1950) and Village Sunday (1960), as well as many private home movies.

Special thanks to the Internet Archive, Rick Prelinger and everyone at the Prelinger Archive.

Rick Prelinger began collecting “ephemeral films”—all those educational, industrial, amateur, advertising, or otherwise sponsored—in 1982, amassing over 60,000 (all on physical film) before his Prelinger Archive was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002. Since then, the collection has grown and diversified: now it exists in library form in San Francisco and is also gradually being ported online to the Internet Archive (http://archive.org), where 3,801 of its films are currently hosted (as of this writing).

Of course, the content of the Prelinger Archive’s films varies in accord with the variety of mankind. Historic newsreels, mid-century automobile infomercials, psychological experiments, medical procedurals, big oil advertisements, military recruitment videos, political propagandas, personal home videos, celebrity exposes, amateur narratives, scientific studies, war bulletins, instructional films, special interest op-eds, safety lessons, hobby guides, travel destination profiles and private industry productions all sit comfortably together in one marginalized category.

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